EUGENE - Oregon's non-conference stretch run continues Saturday, as the No. 15 Ducks square off with Illinois in their final out-of-conference game away from Matthew Knight Arena, this up 1-5 at the Moda Center in Portland.
The Illini are third and final power conference team on the Ducks's schedule, and just like their first two, it figures to be a challenging contest.
Illinois (9-1) will be the "best [defensive] team] the Ducks have faced this year according to coach Dana Altman. The Big-10 school is eighth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just under 60 points per contest.
"We'll have our work cut out for us," Altman said. "Defensively, I think they're really good."
It will certainly be a clash of styles, with Illinois looking to play a game in the 60s and the Ducks, who are second-nationally in scoring, one in the 90s.
But one thing the Ducks took away from their overtime win over Mississippi, was the realization that they have the necessary mental toughness to play with anybody, regardless of style.
"We learned that we are pretty tough," said senior Mike Moser. "We can go into a place like that and swing away and keep fighting even when things got tough."
"At the end of the game, who ever has the most heart that's who will come out with the game," guard Joseph Young added.
And according to Young, the key for one of the nation's best offensive teams will be defense.
"We have to be better defenders and contain our man and make them shoot jump shots," he said.
But that does't mean the Ducks, who have greater depth and athleticism, won't turn to their calling card.
"We'll take guys in and out, try to get up and down and try to run them out of them gym hopefully," Moser said.
Moser is one of two Ducks who grew up in Portland (walk-on guard Theo Friedman is the other) , rooting for the Blazers at the Rose Garden. Despite the name change, Moser says this game will be extra special.
"I have friends and family and probably the all of [Grant] high school will be there. So it'll be fun," he said.
Moser estimated that between 100-150 people will be there to cheer him on.
Asked if he expects the surrounding to affect Moser, Altman said not at all.
"I think he's just a couple years younger than I am. He's pretty even-keel. I think he's excited about going back," he said.
Altman said he felt a big part of Moser's decision to come back to the state was to be closer to his family for his final year of collegiate eligibility.
One For the Record Books
Point guard Johnathan Loyd's 15 assists against Ole Miss ranks second in school history. The career night was just one of what has been an excellent start for the senior point guard.
Loyd is currently third nationally in assists with 7.4 per game and has gained the respect of his teammates.
"He's probably the best point guard I've ever played with in college," said Moser, who has played with NBA caliber guards at UCLA and UNLV. "The way he finds guys… He doesn't hunt shots, but when he has them, he knocks them down. He's doing a great job."
Oregon and Illinois will tip off at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Moda Center. The game will be televised on ESPN2, with Roxy Bernstein and Sean Farnham on the call.
PG- Tracey Abrams (6-2, 190)- 11.1 points per game, 3.2 assists per game.
SG- Rayvonte Rice (6-4, 235)- 17.9 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game.
SF- Joseph Bertrand (6-6, 200)- 11.0 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game.
PF- John Ekey (6-7, 225)- 9.1 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game.
C- Nnanna Egwu (6-11, 250)- 8.6 points per game, 2.3 blocks per game.
PG- Johnathan Loyd (5-8 163)- 11.1 points per game, 7.4 assists per game.
SG- Joseph Young (6-2 185)- 20.1 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game.
SF- Damyean Dotson (6-5 209)- 10.3 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game.
PF- Mike Moser (6-8 211)- 15 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game.
C- Waverly Austin (6-11 257)- 3.8 points per game, 1.1 blocks per game.